Kayley leaned low in the saddle, hugging her horse's neck tightly as she rode on into the night. She looked over her shoulder at the three black figures loping through the moonlit darkness towards her. The monsters were keeping up with the horse on their own feet(1) and were actually gaining on her steed! She looked ahead as she turned the bend and came to the main road. If she took it, she could get to Camelot and warn King Arthur before Ruber and his monsters ever got there but...she swung her head to the right. If she took the old road...to the Forbidden Forest...she could find Excalibur and return it to the King!
Something black and metal whirled over her head, slamming into the the rock between the two paths. It was a metal arrow the size of her torso. She looked back over her shoulder, her pursuers were almost upon her. Kayley made her decision and plunged down the old road. She could hear the metal feet of the golems crushing the ground beneath their tread as they came down the road after her. Looking back she saw one of them raise an arm. She ducked just in time as another of the massive arrows sailed towards her, very nearly taking the head off of her horse in the process.
She looked ahead into the looming shadows as she galloped through a brook, the icy water splashing up against her legs and giving new clarity to her surroundings with its chill. The forest loomed ahead of her over the barren ground, she was almost there. Would the golems be able to follow her into the forest? She prayed not. Something loomed up out of the shadows, pale and ghostly as it hissed at her. Her steed panicked, bucking violently in panic, throwing Kayley from the saddle and onto the hard ground. She looked around her, expecting the creature to be upon her but the apparition had vanished into the gathering mists of the forest.
Picking herself up, she rushed into the dense trees hurriedly, pushing through the grasping branches as they clung to her hair and clothing. She was scratched, bruised, and bleeding by the time she heard the crash of her pursuers hacking their way into the forest behind it. It sounded as if they might tear the entire forest apart in their drive to get her. Kayley pushed onwards, shoving against a thick entwining of branches. It gave way suddenly, seemingly sliding away and she tumbled down a steep slope, landing with a splash in shallow water. Something entangled her and panic took over as she struggled to get whatever it was holding her to release her.
Pulling her face clear of the water she found that a new was laid across her head and shoulders. She sat there in the tepid water, catching her breath and listening for the sounds of her pursuers. The forest seemed eerily quiet suddenly.
She jerked around, scrambling to her feet as a man stepped out of a makeshift hut built beneath the roots of a great tree.
"That's my net." he growled, tapping a quarterstaff against his palm as he glared at her.
Kayley looked at him blankly for a moment, her mind grasping for a response that never came as the three massive metal men erupted from the foliage above and landed in the water with a chorus of roars. Kayley flattened herself against the slope of the embankment, watching as the trio encircled the lone man whose grip on the quarterstaff grew tight as he took up a fighting stance.
"Be careful!" she cautioned. "They aren't human!"
The man said nothing, standing perfectly still as the golems circled around him with deep metallic chuckles. They seemed as wolves encircling a deer they knew had no defense against them. A piercing shriek broke through the forest and the three monstrosities paused for a moment. Something small shot out of the trees and slammed into the head of one of Ruber's golems. The man took the chance to hit it in the head with the butt of his staff, causing it to recoil for a moment before he turned around and struck the second golem squarely in the stomach, leveraging its own weight against it and hurling it into the water.
Kayley's eyes widened as a whirlpool opened up and swallowed the creature whole. She watched as the lone man turned to the first golem again and struck it once more about the head, staggering it back. Kayley yelped in alarm as a whip-like tongue shot out of a nearby plant that sucked in the golem, sealing it inside a pod. The final golem stood its ground for a moment before it turned and ran through the forest, fleeing in apparent terror. Kayley felt a wave of relief wash over her as the last creature ran from the swamp. If they could be scared, perhaps Camelot did have a chance against them. She looked to her savior and tried to smile despite her uncertainty.
"That, that was amazing. Thank you."
"Great," muttered the man as he fished out a net from the water where Kayley had landed. "It took me six weeks to make this net."
"A net?" Kayley said in bewilderment. "You just saved my life!"
The man shrugged as he struggled with the fish in the net. "Well, everyone makes mistakes." the fish slapped him in the face and splashed into the water.
"Oh I get it." Kayley replied caustically, her gratefulness falling away as she gestured around at the bog. "This is where King Arthur sends all his unfunny jesters right?"
The man sighed and tossed the ruined net into the water. "And now I'll thank you."
"For what?" Kayley asked.
"For reminding me why I'm a hermit! Good day!"
He stomped off into the trees and Kayley made to follow him, but she stopped as the same small object flashed past her and she turned to see a falcon alight on the man's shoulder. She frowned for a moment as she hurried to catch up with him.
"Hey wait! What's your name?"
"It's Garrett." he snapped.
"Garrett." Kayley called, grabbing his arm and walking in front of him. "Why don't you look at me when I'm speaking to you? Oh," she released his arm. "I didn't realize that you were—"
"What?" Garrett asked with a smirk. "That I'm tall? Rugged? Handsome?"
She frowned, shaking her head. "Blind."
He held up a finger mockingly. "Ah, you know I always forget that one."
Kayley looked away self-consciously, unsure what to say as Garrett stood there a moment more before continuing his walk into the woods. A ray of the morning light somehow penetrated the woods suddenly and shone off his falcon as it preened its wings. Kayley's eyes widened as silver flashed brightly from it.
"Hey, your falcon has silver wings!"
"Really?" Garrett asked, stopping and canting his head. "I'll have to take your word for that."
"No you don't understand!" Kayley cried, scrambling after him. "It means he knows where Excalibur is!"
"Sure he does, it's in Camelot with the King."
"No! It's been stolen and is somewhere in the forest! That's why I'm here!" she shouted as he continued to walk away from her.
Garrett paused as the falcon chirped and warbled at him, nodding his head.
"Excalibur is missing?" the falcon chirped again. "Right then, we're going after it."
"Great!" said Kayley.
Garrett turned around and pointed his staff at her chest. "Not you, me and Aidan. We work alone."
Kayley pushed the staff out of the way, scowling at him. "Well I see no reason why I can't come along."
Garrett snorted. "You don't know this forest. I do."
"And that's a good reason why?"
"Because I know the sound of every rock and tree in these woods, I embrace the very things that others fear. Everything in this forest breathes and I know each breath, for anyone else this forest is death but for me it is life. I don't have the time to watch over you and keep you alive."
Kayley crossed her arms across her chest stubbornly. "I'm coming with you Garrett, they have my mother."
Garrett canted his head curiously. "Who does?"
"The man who stole Excalibur, he has my mother, they're going to attack Camelot. I have no where else to go but forwards and I'm going with or without your help."
Garrett considered for a moment as his falcon, Aidan, chirped at him. He scowled. "Aidan." the falcon warbled reproachfully and Garrett sighed. "Fine, you can come with us."
Kayley's face brightened, she felt a great weight lifting off her chest at the realization that she wouldn't be traveling through the Forbidden Forest by herself. There was a crashing behind them and both turned to see the remaining golem, the one that had fled, rushing away through the trees.
"It seems he knows what we're up to." Garrett said thoughtfully. "We'd best be on our way."
He turned and led the way deeper into the forest, with Kayley following close behind. She wasn't certain, but she swore that Garrett not only understood his falcon's chirps and warbles, but that the bird kept looking at her with a spark of familiarity. It was an eerie feeling and she made a concerted effort not to meet Aidan's eerie gaze as they made their way through the forest.
Ruber watched impatiently as the griffin paced around the clearing, sniffing the ground and examining the trees.
"You mythological moron." he snarled finally, his patience vanishing in a flash of temper. "Where did you drop the sword?!"
The great beast hissed and slunk low to the ground, looking up at the lightening sky through the trees overhead.
"It all looks so different down here."
Ruber's eyes bulged furiously as he grabbed the griffin's ear with his hand and yanked it down, raising his blade arm up. Whatever action Ruber intended though was forestalled by a crashing sound as one of his constructs came crashing through the foliage and into the clearing. Ruber released the griffin and stood up to greet the metal man as the golem came to a stop before him.
"The girl has found a blind warrior with a silver-winged falcon." the golem said in a grating metal voice. "They're seeking the sword."
Ruber looked at the griffin for a moment, stroking his chin.
"They'll lead us right to them." he said with a sinister grin. "We're going after them!"
The group of golems followed after him as he followed the first golem into the forest with the griffin walking besides him. It wouldn't be long now, soon the sword would be his and he could take the throne from that brat of a king!
1: Sorry, no boar riding in this version
AN: So I am faced with a complication and am wondering what people would like. Should I keep Devon and Cornwall in the story or not? They're going to be a bitch to write, but I do enjoy them (no singing obviously) and I think I can figure out how to work them in but I am curious to see if anyone else wants to see them or if I should just skip them.